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Story highlights

Trump made a similar move last week on steel

Wilbur Ross is Trump's commerce secretary

(CNN) —  

President Donald Trump on Thursday will formally order an investigation into the effect of aluminum imports on US national security.

The investigation, which the Commerce Department initiated on the eve of Trump’s planned signing, could result in tariffs or other restrictions on foreign imports of aluminum, which could have a direct effect on China, one of the largest exporters of aluminum.

The investigation comes as US aluminum production has significantly decreased in recent years, sparking concerns in the Trump administration that the US aluminum industry might not be capable of handling production demands of the US defense industry should war preparations become necessary.

High purity aluminum, which can currently only be produced by one US manufacturer, is used in the production of several US military planes, including the F-35 and F-18 fighter jets and C-17 cargo plane. The high purity aluminum is also used in armor plating used by military vehicles and combat ships.

“The question is if we have to mobilize,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said of the administration’s concerns that sparked the investigation.

The executive action is just the latest that could have implications for the US-China trading relationship, coming a week after Trump directed a similar investigation into steel imports. China has been accused of dumping steel in the US market, hurting US manufacturers of the product.

Ross specifically pointed to Chinese overcapacity in their steel production and said the have quintupled their share of aluminum production since 2002.

Ross said the latest action, like several other trade actions Trump has taken in recent weeks, were aimed at following through on promises he made during the campaign, when he promised action on trade.

“It shouldn’t surprise you that he’s following through and it certainly shouldn’t surprise you that I’m following through,” Ross said.